The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 34 of the Common Program

The focus of this article is threefold. In areas with agrarian reform, the people's government focuses on organizing peasants and manpower for agricultural development. It promotes mutual aid and cooperation among peasants. Agrarian reform in newly liberated areas is integrated with agricultural revival. Secondly, the government aims to restore and surpass pre-war production levels, emphasizing irrigation, flood prevention, animal husbandry, fertilizer supply, farm improvements, pest control, and planned migration for land reclamation. Thirdly, forest protection and planned afforestation are priorities, along with safeguarding coastal fisheries and developing the aquatic products industry. Livestock-raising is protected with preventive measures against diseases.
Article 18 of  the agrarian reform law of the People's Republic of China reads: "All large forests, large water conservancy works, large expanses of wasteland, large uncultivated hillsides, big salt fields and mines as well as lakes, marshes, rivers and ports must be nationalised and be managed and operated by the People's Government, Those in which private capital has been invested and which have so far been privately managed shall continue to be operated by the existing management, according to the decrees promulgated by the People's Government."
Source: Amsel, 2024

Farmers' incomes continued to be vulnerable to the uncertainties of agricultural production. While most commodity markets were regulated by the state, minor fluctuations in prices could still significantly impact peasant welfare in numerous regions. Factors such as rainfall or drought, pests or hailstorms, family illnesses, or the birth of female children continued to profoundly influence the livelihoods of Chinese peasant families under the CCP, much as they did in the past. Despite the redistribution of wealth and the reorganizations of work units during the 1950s, the family household retained its status as the primary social and economic unit in rural areas, mirroring its role in traditional times.
Fig. 34.1: 1949–1952 Cultivated Land Area, Grain Cultivation Area and Cotton Cultivation
Wen (2021). Page 118
Area by Region (in million mu)
The methods used in the land survey have several drawbacks (fig.34.1). For example, the units used in the land survey differed between locations. The traditional metric units used in China were not unified and referred to different lengths in the 1950s (although all were called “Mu”), resulting in a significant discrepancy in information about the croplands been surveyed.
Fig. 34.2: Food-crop acreage, Production and Productivity
Chao (1957). Page 122
Acreage: 1.000 Production: 1.000 metric tons Yield: 1bs per acre

Fig. 34.3 : Production, Acreage, and Productivity of industrial crops
Chao (1957). Page 123
Acreage: 1.000 Production: 1.000 metric tons Yield: 1bs per acre
Fig. 34.4: State aid to agriculture 1940-1954
Hsu (1982). Page 647
Share of total state aid to agriculture in total state expenditures
Share of state investment in agriculture in total state capital investment
The fiscal strain experienced by the agricultural sector during the 1950s is highlighted by the fact that government expenditure on agriculture was lower than the tax revenue generated from this sector. Additionally, the agricultural sector's minimal share of investment did not align with the significant developmental responsibilities it bore. This imbalance was particularly evident considering that the limited resources allocated for capital construction under the FFYP were primarily focused on water control projects along the Yellow River, the benefits of which were uncertain.
Mutual aid

The CCP had almost no prior experience organizing rural areas populated by both farmers and fishers. Incorporating fishers into the Revolution demonstrated the state’s assertion of authority over China’s coasts. The implementation of policies further reflected the interplay of revolutionary ideals, popular perceptions, and coastal realities. In practice, the conventional rural class categories were inadequate for coastal villages where people relied on fishing for their livelihood. The 1953 classification later reflected the state’s evolving attitudes towards fishing as a distinct economic activity in rural China. Within China's fishing industry, three distinct types of fisheries exist: deep-sea, inshore, and inland. Deep-sea fishing remains underdeveloped, with most vessels not venturing beyond the continental shelf's edge. Coastal fishing, while significant, lacks systematic development. Inland fisheries can be found in lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds. However, in western China, fish resources have become severely depleted. Overall, inland fisheries hold less importance compared to sea fisheries. "Although fisheries have a long history in China, they were kept in their original form and on a very limited scale until the end of the 1950s. In 1949, ... the production value was only 150 million yuan, accounting for 0.6% of the total agricultural production value [6]. From 1949 to 1957, the fisheries in China were in a stage of restoration and development....In 1950, the total production of the aquaculture industry was ... accounting for only 8.6% of the total aquatic products "
Fig. 34.5: Fisheries productions in China, 1949-1954
Source: Jia (2001). Table 3,
Volume: mt
In 1950, the majority of the 78,000 fishing boats in existence lacked diesel engines, resulting in a modest production of 535,000 metric tons in marine capture fisheries. However, there was a significant surge in the number of powered fishing vessels from 1951 onwards. Nonetheless, sea farming/ranching remained a minor contributor to both marine capture fisheries and overall production (see Fig. 34.5). Throughout the past few centuries, China had a longstanding tradition of cultivating more than ten marine plants and animals, including four seaweed varieties, five molluscs, one shrimp, and one fish species. However, due to the limited efficiency of prevailing methods and reliance on natural seed and substrates, the annual total production remained small, amounting to less than 10,000 metric tons. To foster growth in the fishing industry, the government extended financial aid in the form of cash loans for boat and tackle purchases. Furthermore, fish markets were established in Qingdao, Shanghai, Yantai, Ninghsien, Wusih, and Yongjia. Freight charges were reduced, salt prices were lowered, and profitable storage facilities were created. Robinson (1956) concludes that the industry, previously lacking organization, decentralization, and scientific methods, was undergoing a process of unification, centralization, and modernization.
The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the People's Republic of China refers to the maritime area adjacent to and beyond its territorial sea. It extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline used for calculating territorial sea breadth.
Fig. 34.6: Catches by EEZ by the fleets of PRC 1950-1954
Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.7: Catches by EEZ by commercial groups of PRC 1950-1954
Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.8: Catches by EEZ by fishing sectors of PRC 1950-1954
Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.9: Catches by EEZ by Gear by the fleets of PRC 1950-1954
Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage

In addition to traditional fisheries, China also engaged in sea farming and ranching practices. A significant development occurred in 1952 when kelp cultivation and harvesting began on artificial substrates in the form of rafts. This marked the first instance of such practices in China. Recognizing the importance of marine fishery resources, the Chinese government increasingly invested in research and published several reports during the 1950s. In 1951, two directives were issued: the "Temporary Fishery Bylaw for the Mid South Region" and the "Temporary Regulations on the Reproduction and Protection of Aquatic Plants and Animals in the Mid South Region." These directives demonstrated the government's commitment to studying and preserving marine resources. To further enhance the understanding and knowledge of fisheries, the first university dedicated to fisheries was established in Shanghai in 1952. This institution played a crucial role in training individuals and advancing expertise in the field of fisheries in China.
Fig. 34.10: Production of Japanese kelp, 1946 -1958
Source: Jia (2001). Table 10

Fig. 34.11: Irrigation infrastructure in China 1949–1954
Source: Du (2019). Page 59
*millions of hectare **millions of ton
"In the early days of the PRC, the central government clearly defined the basic principle of the public ownership of water resources. However, at that time, water consumption was low, water pollution was not serious, and competition and conflicts between water users were not prominent." During the period of restoring the national economy, irrigation played a crucial role as a key component of infrastructure investment, ranking second only to transportation and communication. From 1949 to 1952, the total investment in agriculture, forestry, and irrigation amounted to 1.03 billion RMB, which accounted for 13.14% of the overall infrastructure investment, with the majority of funds allocated to irrigation construction. The overriding goal of the new government was the development of production in order to provide people daily living supplies. Environmental protection was not a concern for the new government.
Harrell (2023) gives an example of irrigation in the Chengdu Plain. Despite the destruction during the Civil war, the irrigation system still worked. After mobilizing local people, PRC engineers started to expand the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system. The People’s Canal was built in early 1953, extending the irrigated area to the northeast, and enlarged it in the winters of 1953–54 and 1954–55, almost doubling the area irrigated with the diverted waters of the Min River.
In 1950, a large-scale irrigation project was initiated to manage the Huai River, resulting in a 65% reduction in flooded areas compared to 1950. In October 1951, construction began on the Upper Yongding River. Similar to the land reform initiatives, the construction of irrigation systems served as a means to mobilize rural areas. The Huai River irrigation project mobilized 220,000 workers, while the Guangting Reservoir construction in the Yongding River required 40,000 laborers, and the works in the Jingjiang involved over 300,000 workers. However, these construction endeavours were plagued by instances of fraud and negligence. Inferior and faulty materials were utilized, leading to significant challenges. For instance, in 1952, the Henan Province incurred disbursements exceeding 50 billion yuan (old RMB) in Shanghai for labour and equipment procurement for the Huai River project. Shockingly, dishonest merchants in Shanghai managed to cheat and steal several billion yuan from these funds.
Terraced fields are built primarily to conserve water and soil and to boost agricultural yields. They first appeared during the Qin and Han Dynasties, especially in the mountainous regions of Jiangnan—a geographic area south of the lower Yangtze River, including the southern part of the Yangtze Delta. Today, most terraced fields are found in Guangxi and Yunnan. In Northern Shaanxi and Western Shanxi, terraced field construction started much later, becoming widespread only in the 1950s. Initially, locals resisted terraces, but they eventually came to accept them. Shanxi Province adopted the "Resolutions on the Planned Performance of Water and Soil Conservation Work throughout the Province," which stated: "Key measures for effective water and soil conservation include changing inappropriate land usage practices, promoting the construction of terraced fields on sloped arable land, and transforming the inefficient farming method of 'planting widely but reaping little.'"
In northern China, inadequate surface water resources necessitated the reliance on groundwater for irrigation projects. Furthermore, numerous rivers were harnessed for hydropower production. In 1949, only 22 large dams were operational, generating a total installed hydropower capacity of 163 MW2. Plans to construct a series of large dams along the Changjiang (Yangtze) River for flood control and electricity generation were initially conceived as early as 1919. However, these projects were abandoned due to the civil war. The devastating flood of 1954 expedited preparations for the Three Gorges Dam, and one year later, planning activities commenced with the assistance of Soviet Union experts. To fully harness hydropower, the central government mandated the installation of small hydropower generating units wherever feasible. In 1953, an administrative agency for Small Hydropower was established under the Ministry of Agriculture, and training programs were organized to cultivate experts nationwide. However, these small-scale projects remained isolated and scattered. Tragically, floods in 1931 and 1935 resulted in the loss of approximately 300,000 lives.
The great project to harness the Huai River

"…the 10 largest flood-prone areas in China are the Yangtze River Delta Region, the area between Nanchang and Nanjing along the Yangtze River, the middle and lower parts of the Gan River Region, the Dongting and Poyang Lake areas in the middle- and lower-Yangtze River basin, the Huai River basin, the piedmont Region of the Taihang Mountains, the lower parts of the Hai River and Luan River, the Pearl River Delta, the lower part of the Liao River Region, the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China, the Wei River Plain, and the Sichuan Basin." In May and June 1950, it was recognized that famine was widespread in Northern China. Millions of acres of wheat were inundated, and tens of thousands of individuals were facing starvation by early May, with the situation continuing to worsen until June. In one of the hardest-hit villages, 459 out of 884 families had no food available. Authorities had to intervene to prevent starving people from consuming wheat seeds in June. During the summer of 1950, widespread floods and waterlogging plagued the entire Huai River basin. On October 14, 1950 GAC makes the decision to the governance of the Huaihe. More than two million hectares of farmland were inundated, and in the Anhui section of the Huai basin alone, nine million people were adversely affected. It was evident that a more comprehensive project was necessary. Commencing in the subsequent autumn, millions of rural people were mobilized during the agricultural off-seasons. Throughout the three-year duration of the Huai Conservancy Project, these individuals, primarily farmers, engaged in the construction of a minimum of eight major reservoirs and numerous smaller ones.
Nonetheless, success remained partial. Between June and September of 1952, the Huai basin experienced four significant rainstorms. Although the dikes along the Huai mainstem and its primary tributaries held, 1.7 million hectares of farmland, primarily in Anhui, suffered from waterlogging. Some critics argued that an excessive focus on large-scale projects and flood prevention led those in charge to neglect smaller endeavours aimed at addressing waterlogging issues. Simultaneously, major rains in 1954 impacted both the Chang and Huai basins, resulting in fewer fatalities and less destruction than the 1931 floods, even though 760,000 hectares of farmland were submerged. These heavy floods, affected Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and caused the death of 30,000 people and affected 19 million people. "...the Beijing-Guangzhou railway line was suspended for more than 100 days. It is estimated that the 1954 flood caused more than 10 billion Yuan (about 0.98 billion Euros) of direct losses, and uncountable indirect ones (YWRP,1999)." The Huai River continued to pose problems for many years to come.
While there was a big flood in the central provinces, there was draught in the North.

Huaihe River

Starting in 1947, the CCP began experimental reclamation programs in the Northeast and expanded them after 1949. Demobilized soldiers and active military units began reclaiming lands for agriculture in three major areas of former wetlands and forested lands: in the valleys of the Nen River and its tributaries along the border with Inner Mongolia, in the plains along the Amur (or Heilong) River, and in the Three Rivers Plain.
Heilongjiang Reclamation 1947-1949
Source: Harrell (2023). Page 104 Map by Lily Demet Crandall-Oral
Reviving fallow land and addressing neglected or abandoned waterworks from the wartime period could have potentially expanded the cultivated area by up to ten million hectares, approximately 7 to 8 percent more, from 1949 to 1952. However, beyond that point, expanding the cultivated area necessitated the reclamation of previously unused land.
The Huai River irrigation project was not only designed as an irrigation project and a defense against floods but also as a land reclamation project.
Reclamation in the Huai River basin
Source: Harrell (2023). Page 106 Map by Lily Demet Crandall-Oral

In 1950 started the establishment of military farms in Xinjiang, as the PLA began reclaiming land. The primary focus of land reclamation was on the north and south routes of the Tianshan Mountains. The northern route primarily included the regions around the Urumqi River, Manas River, and Kuitun River, while the southern route included the regions around the Kaidu River, Kongque River, and Aksu River.
Land reclamation was not confined to the inland of China. From 1949 onwards, large areas of intertidal zone were enclosed for salt pan expansion, especially along the coasts of Hebei, Tianjin, and Hainan. Large-scale human migration for the purposes of land reclamation, industrialization, and construction in Northwest China caused dust storms in Northwest China.
Fig. 34.12: The comparison of reclaimed farmland changes 1887-1960 (x 103ha)
Source: Zhang (2003). Page 120

China traditionally had a lot of forests, about half of the country was covered with forests, especially in southwestern China. In 1949 the estimated coverings had been reduced to 8,6%. The growing population and failing government policy caused more decline to less than 5%. "The Ministry of Forestry was organized and run principally as a supplier of raw materials for industry, rather like the ministries of coal and mining, and not as the manager of a limited but renewable resource. This led to tremendous over-exploitation with scant attention to re-planting...Procurement prices were set at a very low, fixed rate, which led to constant overcutting, shortages and waste at all levels of the system." Timber, as one of the most important industrial materials, was one of the earliest products whose purchase, transportation and sale were controlled by the government. The ministry was understaffed, 27 cadres and 2 SU experts who were responsible for managing forest areas measuring some 100 million ha.
During the land reform campaign, natural forests privately owned by wealthy landlords were confiscated and redistributed. Part of the forests owned by the rich peasants, and the common forests were also conficated and 42% of the total forested area of China was nationalized, effectively giving the state control over 68% of the timber volume produced yearly. "The rest was redistributed equally to rural households, with former landlords receiving the same share as everyone else. The campaign covered all of China with the exception of Tibet and the border areas in Yunnan where minority ethnic groups resided. In these remote areas, confiscated forests were not redistributed to households but were designated as common property of the village community, due largely to attention given to political sensitivity of border areas.7"
Zhao (2012) states "The progress of greening in the 1950s was considerable: in the spring of 1951, 500 000 acres of land were afforested, more than what the Kuomintang did in all its 22 years of ‘misrule’ (1927–1949),34 and this was also the case in 1953.35 In eastern Henan and western Hebei provinces and in northeast and northwest China, 1 625 000 acres of land had been afforested by the middle of 1954. These new plantations were intended to provide shelter for nearly 52 million acres of arable lands. By 1955 an additional 550 000 acres of trees had been planted to create a shelter belt stretching from eastern Inner Mongolia into the north-eastern provinces, with agricultural yields in the vicinity being reported to have increased fivefold.36" He concludes however, "However during the Mao era the implementation of greening was a general failure. This was firstly due to an overemphasis on numbers of trees planted, rather than on establishment. Secondly, as a result of a desire to demonstrate increasingly numerous results there was a general lack of care after trees were planted."
In the first period of the establishment of cooperatives (See Article 29), private forest ownership still existed during the period 1953-1955 and was effectively dismantled in 1956 with the establishment of advanced cooperatives.
Fig. 34.13: Tenurial and management arrangements for forestland during the early 1950's
Source: Wang (2011). Page 419
* Usually, 'sizable' meant natural forest areas larger than 33.3 ha and economic forest areas larger than 6.7 ha. However, the local governments could set their own standard
**Trees from which an income could be obtained without felling them, for example, through the sale of fruits
***Trees grown for timber

The growing population and the growing importance of industry made the demand for timber high. The export of timber to China from western countries declined due to their embargo policy. (See Article 37 ) Since 1949, the increasing population necessitated more food production, which in turn required more arable land. With approximately 85% of the Chinese population residing in rural areas, traditional agricultural practices persisted, including the use of slash-and-burn techniques inherited from previous generations. Chinese peasants continued to clear and burn forested areas to expand cultivated land, leading to a seemingly perpetual cycle of population growth and deforestation in China.
Fig. 34.15: Change in the distribution of deforested areas in Heilongjiang 1949-1958
Source: Gao (2012). Page 349
In total, there were 142,184 km2 of primary forest (Table 1) while secondary forest stood at 68,801 km2 in 1958. During 1949-1958 deforested area mounted to a net loss of 60,265 km2 . Consequently, forested area was reduced to 247,755 km2 at an annual rate of 1183 km2. The pace of deforestation in this period drastically quickened than in the previous period. Page 348
In the early years (1949-1954), a considerable portion of tree planting was performed by mobilized workers, peasants, students, and members of the PLA who contributed to state-driven planting initiatives. However, even during this period, a significant portion of the tree planting was conducted by cooperative-based peasants on their own lands. In both scenarios, the provision of professional and technical guidance was often limited. Due to the urgent need for rapid afforestation in the early 1950s, most, if not all, of the trees (pines were selected for their fast growth) were planted quickly. Essential silvicultural practices, like thinning, were largely neglected. As a result, the trees grew dense and close together, with branches spreading excessively. Given these circumstances, it's not surprising that, even if the reports on plan fulfilment accurately recorded the number of trees planted, the reported areas might have been exaggerated as the figures were successively inflated. Additionally, substantial areas were classified as afforested when, in reality, they had only been reforested. Therefore, there are valid reservations about the areas claimed to have been afforested, without undermining the extensive effort put into tree planting. In fact, the Chinese had limited knowledge about the exact extent of their forested areas. In 1954, a rapid reconnaissance survey was conducted with the assistance of Soviet Union specialists. Although it could provide only a rough estimate of forest area, it lacked detailed information about composition, quality, and accessibility. Nevertheless, it did reveal larger reserves than initially suspected.

China's vast and varied landscape, characterized by diverse topography and climates, supports a wide range of domesticated animals. Traditionally, sheep, cattle, and horses have been prevalent in the grazing regions of the northeast, northwest, and southwest—areas with low population density that account for 54 percent of the country's land area. In contrast, the rest of China, dominated by intensive agriculture, primarily raised swine and poultry due to their suitability as supplementary livestock. Horses and water buffalo also remained vital as draft animals in these regions. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the boundary between pastoral and farming areas gradually shifted northward, influenced by the expansion of crop cultivation into grasslands. After the Land Reform, individual ownership was abolished, but it was not until 1956 that grassland was officially nationalized.
Fig. 34.16: Draft animals distribution after land reform
Source: Chen (2017). (Online Appendix) Page 7
Before collectivization, private property rights were more protected in some counties than in others. By 1952, the CCP had completed land reform under the "land to the tiller" program. This involved confiscating land and draft animals from millions of landlords and rich peasants and redistributing them to poor peasants and landless laborers. Landlords and rich peasants, who previously owned 53 percent of the land, were left with only 8.6 percent after the reform, losing most of their property rights before collectivization even began. The recent gains for poor peasants and landless laborers were too new to be solidly considered their own property. See Article 27.
In contrast, the property of middle peasants, who had a long-standing tradition of farming their own land and raising their own animals, remained largely intact after the reform. The CCP believed that securing a strong alliance with the middle peasants was crucial for the success of the revolution and reform. Therefore, land reform policies were clear: middle peasants' lands and interests were to be protected at all costs. After the land reform, middle peasants, who made up about 37 percent of rural households, owned 44 percent of the land and 52 percent of the draft animals. However, in advanced cooperatives where output was distributed based solely on labor input, middle peasants stood to lose their relative advantage. Consequently, they were initially reluctant to join these cooperatives voluntarily, though they were eventually compelled to do so. See Article 29. "The timing of Land Reform for grazing lands differed among the various pastoral regions. In Inner Mongolia it was executed simultaneously with agricultural Land Reform, from 1947 until 1952. In Xinjiang it took place over the period 1953–4, in Qinghai it was conducted from 1952 until 1958, in Sichuan it lasted from 1955 until 1960, while Tibet was the latest (1959–61). In addition, the extent to which grazing lands were expropriated from landlords and rich peasants differed over time and place"
Fig. 34.17: Draft animals in China 1949-1954
Source: Kuo (1964). Page 146

In a Mutual Aid Team, draft animals were either co-owned by the group or rented from individual owners. The rental arrangements involved exchanges of grain, fodder, or labor. Typically, one day's labor by an ox was considered equivalent to two days' labor by a person.
Fig. 34.18: Livestock raising in China 1949-1954
Source: Chao (1957). Page 124

Due to the emphasize on growing grain and/or cotton, 380,000 hectares of rangeland have been converted to agriculture in Qinghai, but because of the deterioration of the soil, 278,000 hectares have been rendered useless for farming. On the mainland, "Since 1949, an estimated 67 million hectares of high quality rangeland have been converted to the cultivation of grain, while only 8 million hectares of artificial grasslands, or about 2% of China's total rangeland, have been created. There has been no attempt to develop rotation of forage and grain crops"

Fig. 34.19: Grazing Livestock by province and region raising in China 1949-1952 (million)
Source: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China. Page 35

In northern China, where animal husbandry was more common, people used dried animal dung (either in cakes or powder form) and grain husks as basic fuels for cooking and heating the home on winter days.
Sheep were hold for the production of wool. Raw wool has consistently been listed in the second category (see Article 37) and subject to firm state controls over purchasing, price and distribution. So raw wool marketing was monopolized by the supply and marketing co-operatives (See Article 38) "The price levels were calculated on the basis of an experimental price which was originally related to the market price for wool in the period shortly after 1949."

The ultimate objective of the agricultural policy was to enhance agricultural production, and this could be achieved through two primary approaches: either increasing the yield per cultivated area or expanding the cultivated area itself. Double cropping was a method to raise the yield per cultivated area by increasing the area sown, while various factors - such as waterworks, traditional fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, new crop varieties, pesticides, and machinery - had the potential to boost yields per sown area. However, it's important to note that chemical fertilizers, new crop varieties, pesticides, and machinery all necessitated capital inputs, which the planners were either unwilling or unable to provide. This situation left labour mobilization as the primary strategy for augmenting the food supply. Despite limited resources, there was a continuous progression in agricultural mechanization. In 1950, the inaugural agricultural tools and equipment exhibition took place at the Central Government location, coinciding with the establishment of the first Tractor Service Station in North China during the same year. From 1949 to 1957, the primary focus of agricultural mechanization involved the refurbishment of existing agricultural tools and the development of more efficient new tools, many of which were powered by animals. Notably, in 1953, approximately 59 million tools underwent repair. The top priority during this period was the enhancement of irrigation and drainage equipment, resulting in a substantial increase in power from 72MW in 1949 to over 400 MW by the conclusion of 1957.
In a very obvious way the superiority of tractors in agricultural production is acknowledged. While a single peasant can dig up 0.2 mu (1 mu equals 0,165 acre) in ten hours by use of a manual hoe, the Soviet DT-54 tractor (54 hp engine, built from 1949 to 1979) with its five plowshares can plow 100 mu in the same time, representing an increase by the factor 500. The increases in harrowing, sowing and harvesting are similar and became during the Mao era (especially in the Great Leap Forward phase) an inherent part of the science dissemination propaganda.
Source: Xu (1954), 32-33.

Since 1949, China strengthened the education of agricultural mechanization. Huabei Agricultural Machinery Institute and Agricultural Machinery Department of Beijing Agricultural University were set up in 1949. A Tractor Ploughing School was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1950. The Pingyuan Agricultural Mechanization College was set up in 1951. One year later in 1952, all the agricultural mechanization-related institutes and schools were collected and reorganized to form the Beijing Agricultural Machinery College, which offered programs in education, research and distribution of agricultural mechanization. The Chinese Journal of Agricultural Research started in 1950 and Acta Agriculturae Sinica started in 1952. The introduction of tractors were inspired by SU agricultural practices. "Through a radio program ‘Agricultural Science’ (Nongye Keji Zhishi), new ‘scientific’ farming techniques (like chemical fertilizers or close-planting methods) reached local cadres. The listening station conscientiously copied down the agriculture knowledge relevant to their county and printed it in a small paper, or sent the information directly to the villages and cooperatives. Sometimes they gathered the agricultural cooperatives’ cadres for a big meeting to distribute the new ‘scientific’ techniques to the attendees.97" Furthermore, the early stages of land reform saw the arrival of agricultural development experts who instructed Hainanese farmers on altering their farming techniques and crop selection to maximize land utilization. This initiative marked an unprecedented level of economic engagement between Hainan and the mainland. Plans to cultivate rubber trees materialized swiftly, with nearly 6000 hectares of previously undeveloped land being planted with rubber trees as early as March 1951. Not all advices were a success. See for example Article 43 about the introduction of Lysenkoism.

Fig. 34.20: 1949–1954 Mechanization 1949-1954
Crook (1988). Page 41

Agricultural machinery by the 77th Regiment of the 26th Division of the 22nd Corps of the PLA from 1951 to 1953 in Xinjiang

An alternative way of increasing agricultural production was the strong emphasis on the selection and dissemination of seeds developed by local farmers. Between 1953 and 1957, there was an ad hoc promotion of exchanging improved seeds among counties and provinces, which included 380 new varieties developed by agricultural colleges and research institutions, along with 104 farmer-developed varieties.
However, during the 1950s, many of the more successful varieties were either foreign imports or had been selected or developed in China before 1949. For instance, 80% of the 95 improved rice varieties distributed between 1949 and 1958 were imported. Regarding other crops, 40% of the improved varieties distributed in North China in the 1950s were imported from Japan or Korea. In the 1930s and 1940s, most foreign potato varieties had their origins in the United States and Japan, while in the 1950s, they came from East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Poland.
Chinese farmers in the primary traditional agricultural regions possessed a profound understanding of pre-industrial agriculture. They effectively transmitted their techniques to less developed agricultural areas through research, extension services, and administrative initiatives. Notably, Chinese farmers utilized substantial amounts of organic fertilizers, often providing all essential nutrients (except for sufficient nitrogen) while maintaining organic content and structural properties. The long-standing tradition of judicious organic fertilizer use facilitated China's smooth transition to manufactured fertilizers and simplified the process of rapid agricultural growth. This was because, with complementary nutrients supplied by organic materials, the growth in the use of manufactured fertilizers could largely rely on nitrogen alone, considering that most nitrogen evaporated from China's primary organic fertilizer components. Other chemical fertilizers were too expensive to produce for a country with a very small industrial base.
The reliance on labor as the primary driver of growth is evident in the changing crop mix. Between 1952 and 1957, there was a shift toward crops with a higher yield value per unit of land; these crops are labor-intensive, requiring more labor per acre than others. These include paddy, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, sugar beet, and rapeseed, among others. The increase in the sown area was also primarily a result of labor. Land reclamation, which partly contributed to the expansion of cultivated area, was possible only through the extensive use of labor. Similarly, multiple cropping depended not only on the availability of water, fertilizer, farm animals, and favorable climatic conditions but also on the availability of labor during certain short periods of the year.

The Ministry of Agriculture had numerous experimental stations across the country, but most were inadequately equipped and staffed to conduct significant research, with some lacking research programs entirely. In the livestock sector, nearly all animal production stations functioned merely as livestock farms, providing sires for local farmers and, in the case of cattle stations, offering draft animals for loan to farmers to reduce the government's feeding costs while the animals worked in the fields. Veterinary stations mainly focused on producing vaccines and treating sick animals.

Shue (1988). Page 49 [↩]
Yu (2021). Page 3211 [↩]
Ash (2006). Page 964 [↩]
Gao (2023). " The fishlords and fishing capitalists, unlike their farming counterparts the landlords and rich peasants, did not suffer the confiscation and redistribution of their fishing equipment. While their surplus land, houses, and livestock were redistributed, they were allowed to keep their equipment and continue to hire fishing laborers.51" Page 14 [↩]
Hu (2021). Pages 64-65, 67 [↩] [Cite]
Robinson (1956). Page 166 [↩] [Cite]
Wen (2021). Page 89 [Cite]
"Surface water was applied mostly by traditional technologies, including human conveyance, while total installed electric power available for irrigation and drainage was only 97,000 hp (72,330kw)." Pietz (2015). Page 246
In the 1950's, the problem of floods in China, was more serious than that of droughts and China’s irrigation investment was mainly targeted at exploiting surface water resource. [↩][Cite]
Fang (1997)."The first environmental concept to evolve after the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 was that of 'environmental hygiene' which was based on the Soviet model. This meant improved medical care and clean water for China's cities with particular attention being paid to efficient working conditions. The Soviet conception of environment did not fit China in many aspects. The massive structures of urban architecture did not harmonize with China's urban landscape....The industrial pollution problems were very serious in the 1950s because of the intensive development of heavy industry. " Pages 13-14 [↩] [Cite]
Jia (2021). Page 3 [↩] [Cite]
Harrell (2023). Pages 112-113[↩] [Cite]
Expansion of the Dujiangyan Irrigation Area, 1953–2021
Source: Harrell (2023). Page 113 Map by Lily Demet Crandall-Oral
Kiely (2014) writes "A group of mobile brigades, for instance, organized mainly by New Fourth Army veterans in the early 1950s for Huai River flood- control work in northern Anhui, grew into the behemoth, 200,000-prisoner East China District Huai River Control Reform-Through-Labor Brigade." Page 278
 00-07-1950 Remarks by Mao Zedong on the Comprehensive Solution for the Huai River. July to September [↩] [Cite]
Wen (2021). Pages 140-141 [↩] [Cite]
Ping (2016). Pages 103 and 104 [↩] [Cite]
Pan (2006). Pages 14 and 29 [↩] [Cite]
Du (2006). Page 161.[Cite]
"The great rivers in China are prone to flood and drought disasters because of their unique natural geographical environment. For example, the Yellow River is the sandiest river in the world. Due to the silting-up of the river bed, the channel often breaks and changes course over the North China Plain, affecting a scope of more than 1,000 km scope from Tianjin in the north by the Bohai Sea to Yancheng in the south by the Yellow Sea with frequent and harmful floods."Jia (2021). Page 3 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2002). Page 88. "On May 9, 1953, the RMRB editorial recognized that there were more than 10 million people suffering famine and in some areas grain prices were so high that hungry people could not afford to buy (05–09–53). Requisition of surplus grain for war purposes might have exacerbated the situation, although the CCP never publicly recognized it." Page 93 [↩] [Cite]
Harrell (2023). Page 107 [↩] In the same year, 1954 a General Plan for the Yellow River was designed to address two issues at once: first, preventing the Yellow River from flooding, and second, converting the rainfall-fed fields of the North China Plain to irrigated agriculture. Page 112 [Cite]
López-Pujol(2016). Page 149 [Cite]
Source: Chao (1958) Page 30 *acres **million tons production ***million affected
[↩] [Cite]
Liu (2016). page 259 describes several sand and dust storms in Xinjiang (1949) and Gansu (1952). "According to the records of the Zhangye Meteorological Station, the storm occurred at 15:00 p.m. in April 9 and lasted until the morning of April 10. At the peak of the storm, the visibility level dropped to grade 0 and wind strength reached grade 9"[Cite]
 08-02-1952 GAC Decisions on Drought Prevention and Mitigation [↩]
Harrell (2023). Pages 101-102 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2014). Page 2 [Cite]
"Each year, approximately 67,000 to 133,000 hectares were reclaimed, totaling 743,000 hectares of new land. During this period, agricultural production saw significant growth: total grain production increased by 71.2%, oilseed production by 75.84%, and cotton production grew by 6.05 times. Due to the backwardness of agricultural technology, this development mainly relied on expanding the cultivated area. This period also marked the establishment of military reclamation farms. Starting in 1950, the Xinjiang Military District of the People's Liberation Army, in addition to suppressing rebellions and eliminating bandits, began reclaiming land and sowed 56,000 hectares of crops that year. By 1952, the cultivated area had expanded to 107,000 hectares, and in 1954, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps of the PLA was established….The reclamation efforts were mainly focused on the northern and southern routes of the Tianshan Mountains, with the northern route centering on the Urumqi River, Manas River, and Kuitun River basins, and the southern route on the Kaidu River, Peacock River, and Aksu River basins." Fan (2013). Page 714 [↩] [Cite]
Zhu (2021). "As for semi-natural of saltpans, the total area of Changlu saltpans in Tanggu, Hangu salt pans in Tianjin in 1949–1965 expanded from 216.0 to 6,580.0 km2 , thereby increasing the coastline length." Page 12 [↩] [Cite]
Ta (2006). "Land reclamation is one of the main causes of serious disturbance of soils and natural vegetation cover, and it causes increased wind erosion during droughts and therefore contributes to dust mobilization." Page 5821 [↩] [Cite]
Harkness (1998). Page 913 [↩] [Cite]
Liu (2001). Page 241 [↩] [Cite]
Zhao (2012). Page 316 [↩] [Cite]
Zhao (2012). Page 326 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2012). During 1948-1950 alone, approximately 6 million m3 of timber was output from Northeast China. In 1950, Heilongjiang produced 5.21 million m3 of timber. Page 350 [↩] [Cite]
RMRB "Who has been harmed by the blockade?" 09-12-1949 [↩]
Tian (2009). Page 6
"Since 1949, for the purposes of raising iron and steel output with backward skills and increasing the output of grain by reclaiming forested land, the process of deforestation continued for almost three decades. For example, in just one area of the northeast part of China, the Changbai Mountains Region, over 30 logging bureaus were set up after 1949, and about 10 million m3 of industrial logs flowed out of the Region every year." Page 9 [↩] [Cite]
He (2021). Page 16 [↩] [Cite]
Westoby (1979). Page 234 [↩] [Cite]
Chen (2017). Page 70 [↩] [Cite]
Ho (2005). Page 83 [↩] [Cite]
National Research Council (1992). Page 23 and page 48 [↩] [Cite]
Watson (1989). Page 229 [↩] [Cite]
Harrell (2023). "In reality, however, widespread mechanized agriculture was not an option in 1950s China: mechanization required capital investment, and the party’s Stalinist model of industrialization called for minimizing investment in agriculture in order to put more capital into heavy industries. Even including water conservancy, agriculture accounted for only around 4 percent of the government’s investment budget in the first five-year plan period of 1953–57." Pages 100-101 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2015). "In 1951, areas in north and northeastern China ran stations for popularizing agricultural techniques and began to set up supportive networks for agricultural science and technology. In 1952, some counties and Regions established stations for popularizing agricultural techniques, and areas at a county level set up cooperative agricultural production boards" Pages 200-2011 [↩] [Cite]
Kuo (1964). "According to the Communist account, more than 59 million units of old-fashioned implements were added, and more than two million small farm tools were issued free of charge in minority regions in an attempt to ease the general shortage. In the dry plains of Northeast and North China, some new types of animal-drawn implements, including ploughs, sowers, harvesters and threshers, were demonstrated and popularised with the farmers through the combined methods of lease, lending, and sale by the local agrotechnical stations and by the experimental farm implement stations in North China. During the First Five-Year Plan period (1953-57), many innovations of farm implements were developed as a first step toward semi-mechanisation. Some 5,110,000 improved and modern farm implements for ploughing, tilling, raking, pressing, sowing, harvesting and threshing purposes were made available to farmers. The principal items were ploughs, including 3,200,000 old-fashioned ploughs, improved ploughs, double-wheel-double-share ploughs and double-wheel-single-share ploughs. Also, during this period, 390 tractor stations were set up on an experimental basis, with a total of more than 12,000 standard tractors (15 h.p. per unit), which were said to be able to serve approximately 27 million mou (4,500,000 acres) of land, or one tractor for an average of 375 acres" Page 134-135[↩] [Cite]
Zhou (2003). Page 2 and 9[↩] [Cite]
Alekna (2020). Page 267 [↩] [Cite]
Murray (2006). Page 308 [↩] [Cite]
Schmalzer (2016). "Beginning in the early 1950s, articles relating the experiences of “old peasants” appeared in Chinese scientific journals; often the experiences were synthesized at conferences where old peasants came together to discuss specific subjects, from expanding sunflower oil production, to managing late-ripening wheat, to preventing frost damage in rapeseed plant.5" Page 790 [↩] [Cite]
Stone (2006). Page 790 [↩] [Cite]
Stone (2006). Page 807 [Cite] and Harrell (2023). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]
Hou (1968). Page 726 [↩] [Cite]
Phillips (1960). Page 242.
Li (2014). "In 1952, China successfully developed the lapinized attenuated vaccine, which played a key role in controlling and eliminating cattle plague. Cattle plagues were completely eliminated throughout China from 1956, and the vaccine was used for several years afterward to ensure eradication was permanent." Page 91 [↩] [Cite]

Directive of the GAC regarding forestry work throughout the country. April. 14, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation regarding the spring afforestation. March 20, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation on afforestation in North China, the Northwest, and other areas during the rainy season. May 26, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation regarding forestry work for the autumn and winter. September 30, 1950.
Decision of the GAC on the agricultural and forestry production for 1951. February 2, 1951.
Directive of the GAC regarding the strict prohibition of the burning of wasteland or reclaimed land, in order to prevent forest fires. March 17, 1951.
Directive of the GAC on practicing economy in the use of wood. August. 13, 1951.
Directive of the MOF regarding the 1952 spring af-forestation project. February 16, 1952.
04-03-1952 Instructions of the Government Council on Strictly Preventing Forest Fires
Directive of the GAC on mobilization of the masses for the purpose of launching an afforestation project and for the cultivation and protection of forests. July 9, 1953.
Directive of the MOF regarding forest protection and fire prevention. March 2, 1953.
Provisional measures of the MOF governing the unified distribution and supply of lumber throughout the country. January 8, 1954.

Water conservation

Directive of the GAC regarding the spring 1950 water conservation construction project. March 20,1950.
Supplementary directive of the Ministry of Water Conservancy regarding the spring construction project. April 27, 1950.
 14-10-1950 The decision of the GAC on the governance of the Huaihe River
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the work of flood prevention. August. 6, 1950.
Directive of the GAC on strengthening the work of flood prevention. June 8, 1951.
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the work of flood prevention. July 25, 1951.
Joint directive of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Conservancy on strengthening the work of irrigation management. July 12, 1951.
25-01-1952 Measures for the Division of Labor and Responsibility for Railway Rivers and Dams
 08-02-1952 GAC Decisions on Drought Prevention and Mitigation
Provisions of the GAC regarding the stream-dividing project on the River Ching. March 31, 1952.
Decision of the GAC regarding the 1952 water conservation project. March. 21, 1952.
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the 1952 flood prevention project. June 20, 1952.
06-05-1953 Central Flood Control Headquarters Instructions on Flood Control in 1953
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters and the Central Administrative Office of Drought Prevention for Production regarding the 1954 work of flood and drought prevention. April 24, 1954.
Chapter 4 of Common Program